Notre Dame Football

Experience Key For Notre Dame's Defense

August 8, 2018

It might be Clark Lea’s first year as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, but expectations are high as the Irish return several playmakers and experience on defense. 

Notre Dame has been desperate for an experienced secondary under Brian Kelly, and the Irish should have just that this year. 

The Irish secondary starts with junior cornerback Julian Love, but several other players have experience under their belt and will compete to see the field. 

“We have great experience on the back end, which is something we haven’t had in years past,” stated Love. “Alohi Gilman is doing very well. Troy Pride is coming along well, and he’s going to be someone this year. Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill, we have so many guys. 

“Our backup group is Donte Vaughn and Shaun Crawford, who are playmakers. We’re deep and experienced, and it’s making a difference.” 

At the linebacker, Drue Tranquill returns for his fifth season and has adjusted to playing the Buck position after spending last year at Rover.

“There are differences,” stated Tranquill. “The Rover and the Buck parallel themselves in some respects because they are both outside backers. I have to see my keys and blur my vision a lot more. I have to see my keys outside of the linemen pulling and stuff. It adds another nuance to the game, but it’s fun.”

Tranquill has never lacked confidence, but he’s also making sure he isn’t getting too comfortable in his new position. 

“I wouldn’t say I’m ever fully comfortable,” explained Tranquill. “There is always something to learn on a day to day basis. If you get complacent and feel comfortable, that’s when you ’re going to get passed up. There are always areas of the game you can improve on.” 

It was clear watching spring practice, the defense has taken on a new level of swagger, and it was evident the secondary was leading the charge by playing more physical and aggressive. 

Love admitted Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly saw maybe too much aggression on the first few days of practice when the Irish didn’t have pads on. 

“Coach Kelly congratulated Shaun the other day because he only tackled three people,” laughed Love. “We only had helmets on so that’s a big no-no when you don’t have pads on. That’s just us being aggressive and trying to make plays.”

As for Lea, Love believes the defense has benefited from being in the same defense for the second year, and it has allowed the Irish to stay ahead of the curve from a mental standpoint. 

“It’s made a big difference early on,” Love said of the defensive scheme staying the same. “We’re hitting the ground running as opposed to learning and dissecting everything. We’re fully into it and can adjust. We can adapt and realize what we’re doing differently from last year. 

“Coach (Terry) Joseph and Coach (Todd) Lyght are doing a fantastic job to help on the back end with Coach Lea. Everybody is meshing really well right now.”

Tranquill and Te’von Coney are fixtures in the middle of the Irish defense, but there is also a freshman linebacker starting to make a name for himself. 

Bo Bauer arrived in January and had quickly impressed everyone around the Notre Dame program over the last eight months. 

“Bo reminds me of myself as a freshman,” said Tranquill. “He’s always looking to me and looking to get extra work in. He’s always looking to learn, and he’s hungry. He soaks things in and puts his head down and works on a day to day basis. 

“If you watch him when he’s in there, you’ll see a guy that’s running 20-30 yards downfield to tag the guy off. He gets in neck deep into the cold tub after practice. He’s one of those traditional linebackers and a leader. I love him, and he’s a great guy. He’s a guy I’ve tried to bring along and lead.” 

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